Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Making Shareware Available at Reserve

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Making Shareware Available at Reserve

Article excerpt

Computer software known as shareware may be distributed freely by libraries. A tremendous number of shareware computer programs are available on CD-ROM discs. A shareware workstation can be used to make shareware CD-ROM discs available to library patrons. This article discusses the shareware workstation set up near the reserve desk in the University of Idaho Library to make the Software Du Jour, Shareware Grab-Bag, and PC-SIG Library CD-ROM discs available to users. Several shareware programs were used to make the discs accessible. The shareware hypertext program PC-Browse was used to create a menu that allows users to ran search software and utility programs and to view help files and instructions. The PC-Browse menu written as the user interface is included in appendix B.

Shareware is an ingenious concept for marketing computer software. The author of a computer program releases it for free distribution among the public but retains the rights to it. Anyone may try it. However, the user who keeps it and uses it is morally obliged to pay a registration fee. Authors often provide documentation, upgrades, and access to technical assistance as an incentive to register. Of course, software that is in the public domain may also be shared freely.

A large number of computer programs are available as shareware. Those include conventional word processing, database, and spreadsheet programs as wed as a wide variety of utility programs, games, graphics programs, text, and even graphic images in digital form. One of the more successful shareware products, the PC-Write word processing program from Quicksoft, was used to prepare this article.

A small industry has grown up to distribute shareware. A number of firms sell it through the mail. The Software Labs, for example, issues a lengthy mail-order catalog. Another vendor, PC-SIG, publishes the bimonthly Shareware Magazine to advertise its offerings and has published several editions of its book-length PC-SIG Encyclopedia of Shareware. Those firms distribute diskettes containing copies of shareware programs but do not collect registration fees.

Since CD-ROM discs can hold vast amounts of data in digital form, it was only a matter of time before vendors started distributing shareware on discs. Norman Desmarais discusses shareware and other software available on CD-ROMs in his article "CD-ROM as a Software Distribution Medium." (1)

By the summer of 1990, several shareware CD-ROM discs had found their way to the University of Idaho Library. The Software Du Jour disc from ALDE Publishing was given free to one of our librarians at a national library convention. A computer users club gave the library money to buy the PC-SIG Library. We had purchased Shareware Grab-Bag from ALDE.

Some users knew that we had the discs. If a user asked, we would let him or her use the shareware discs on one of the PCs ordinarily used for searching CD-ROM databases. The librarians on duty gave users any help they could. Although we had the shareware CD-ROM discs, we had not devised a good way to make them readily available to the public.

When an extra CD-ROM drive became available, we decided to install it on a PC near the reserve desk and to put the shareware discs on reserve. That decision presented us with the challenge of making search software and online help available to users.


The computer near the reserve desk, which became our shareware workstation, was an ancient IBM PC that had been used in a university computer lab for years. The library obtained that PC when the lab was equipped with more modern computers. To equip the PC as a workstation, we added a 20 MB hard disc and an external Toshiba CD-ROM drive to the existing low-density diskette drives--Drive A is a 5.25-inch drive and Drive B is a 3.5-inch drive. We designated the hard disk as "Drive C" and the CD-ROM drive as "Drive Z. …

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